- The Atheists were completely right, the bible is full of horrible things, God is a jerk, Jesus is overrated, and while there are a few good verses here and there, they are vastly outnumbered by bad verses
- The Christians were completely right, the bible is full of good things. Sure, there are a few passages that look bad in isolation, but when taken as a whole even those passages make sense coming from a loving God
- The truth lies between both of these extremes. There are enough passages on both sides of the ledger that each group can pay attention to stuff that fits their point of view and ignore things that don't.
When I started this, I assumed that 3 would be reality. The interesting part would be to discover how much it leans towards either option 1 or 2. I think it is important to be as fair as possible, to count both the good and bad equally. In fact, given my bias I think it is important to push things in the opposite direction a bit, try to highlight any little bit of good I come across, and dispense with the nitpicky bad things (or at least admit they are nitpicky). I think I succeed pretty well in this matter most of the time, I really try to highlight good aspects of the reading, the Christian commentaries have definitely helped me on that account a few times.
Nevertheless, after reading all of the New Testament and Genesis all I see is number 1. There are terrible things everywhere and there's not that much good stuff. What's more, the good stuff is usually mixed up with an equal portion of bad (take the sermon on the mount for example). It's hard to me to imagine someone sitting down and reading this book and thinking it came from a loving God, and yet they do. I used to think that Christians must just not read the thing, but I come across people all the time who do read it. People say they have read it cover to cover X number of times in their life. I will occasionally see someone post the challenge to read the whole bible in 90 days and chart their progress.
What the hell is going on here? How can we both read the same book and have such a different impression of it? Is it not as bad as I think and not as good as they think? I think I can make a pretty compelling argument that there is a ton of horrible things in the bible, but am I also missing a bunch of good stuff? Honestly, I don't think so. I think there are many stories that I count as bad and they count as good. Look at when God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac for example. I read that story and I'm horrified at what I see, obviously both the God character and the Abraham character here are terrible. And yet Christians will almost universally describe this as a good story because Abraham is obedient. They want the bible to be a good book, and so they twist their perception to make it good even when it is plainly not. They are seeing what they want to see.
Now the question is, am I doing the same thing from the other side? Am I looking for the bible to be a piece of shit and that is what I'm finding? I feel like I try to be as fair as possible and highlight the positive as well as the negative. I really try not to be bias, but it's pretty hard to explain the disconnect without it. Is it really reasonable for me to think they are taking a book that is THAT terrible and twisting their perception to see it as good, or am I also twisting my perception to make it worse than it is? While I think it is important for me to be self-reflective and consider my own bias here, looking at a few examples such as the Abraham and Isaac story it really does seem that I'm on solid ground. In that story there's no middle ground to be reached. God is a horrible character and so is Abraham. The question then becomes whether that story is typical of the bible or an extreme example.